|By SUSAN BLOWER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Wright Brothers got their first gig at a restaurant named Stable Influence at 86th Street and Ditch Road in Indianapolis. Still together and still singing, the brothers didn’t know then that the restaurant’s name would be so descriptive of their 34-year musical career.
Known for their humor, smooth harmonies and deft imitations of other bands, the Wright Brothers have had two top-40 songs. They spent the 1970s traversing the country and the 1980s in Nashville with two recording studios.
“After 17 years on the road 265-300 days a year, we decided to come home to our families. Now we do one-nighters,” said Tim Wright, spokesman and co-founder of the band.
The Wright Brothers will bring their popular act to Farm World Expo as the headline attraction on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. The Farm World Expo, Aug. 1-3 at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds in Terre Haute, will be the largest summer outdoor farm show in Indiana and Illinois in 2006.
The Wabash Valley Fairgrounds is located on U.S. 41, less than one mile south of I-70. For more details about features at the Farm World Expo, call 1-800-876-5133, ext-188, or visit the Expo’s website at www.farmworldexpo.com
Having entertained audiences at the Grand Ole Opry, Hee Haw, The Today Show, and Nashville Now, the Wright Brothers are no less enthused about what they do now, playing to local fans via corporate affairs, festivals and dinner theaters such as Beef and Boards in Indianapolis.
“We started in college to make money doing what we had done since we were little boys in church, playing and singing. People started listening. We went from being the background band to being the show band and touring the country. We had no idea it would keep growing like it did,” said Tom Wright, big brother to Tim and master of ceremonies on stage.
“We have become gentlemen doing something I think we were meant to do. It’s a blessing, and we recognize it, and we don’t take it for granted,” Tom said.
The Wrights are originally from French Lick, Ind., hometown of basketball legend Larry Bird. Tom likes to joke with his audience: “They have a big sign there saying ‘Home of Larry Bird.’ Our name’s up there, too - now. We used spray paint.”
From Beatles to Bluegrass
If you have a favorite song, it’s probably on their play list, which is three pages long and ranges from Dancin’ Queen to Hey, Good Lookin’, featuring many different musical genres in between.
The group can easily transition from a 40s big band song to 50s rock ’n roll, then turn on a dime to deliver a George Jones country classic or a bluegrass number from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Wright Brothers family has changed some throughout the years, although the nucleus has remained, with Tom and Tim. Another partner, John McDowell, has sung tenor and played bass guitar with the band for 27 years.
Asked what has kept the band together for so long, Tom answered simply, “Faith and respect. John McDowell has become like a brother. We fight and hug just like brothers, although we did most of our fighting a long time ago. You become smarter with time – usually.”
The Brothers also include two young, attractive females.
Although technically they are not brothers, they are indeed family. They are Tim’s daughters, Emily and Lauren, who have been singing with the group full-time since 2001.
“It’s been a fantastic experience to sing with my daughters,” Tim said.
Tim Wright sings and plays a variety of stringed instruments: banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and pedal steel. Frank Bradford sings and plays keyboard and lead guitar.
Michael Shepard plays lead guitar, steel guitar and harmonica. Bryan Chrisman is on percussion.
“We need each other. We have disagreements just like a family, but we get over it. We can hold a grudge or we can continue the wonderful thing we have,” Tim said. “Sometimes it isn’t easy to swallow your pride, but you pay a price for that pride. You can be right, but who cares? You’re sitting all by yourself.”
On stage, Tom likes to share his memories of growing up in French Lick and playing in the creek, barns, fields, and woods with a variety of family and friends.
“We became expert dam builders by the age of 10. Those memories are the source of stories for me. The people – I call them characters – are funny, some are poignant, others heartfelt and sincere. I’ve romanticized them to the point of being sentimental. I wish my kids could’ve had those kinds of memories,” Tom said.
Still, Tom said, his kids don’t begrudge him any of his memories – having probably heard them enough to call them their own.
Tim Wright echoes many of the sentiments of his brother. He values his adult memories, as well, having met and shared a stage with so many interesting famous folks, such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Van Dyke, and Lee Greenwood.
“My favorite was meeting Johnny Cash. He introduced himself to us, and he said, ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,’ and it sounded just like his (show). I was impressed with him. He was the real deal,” Tim said.
Of all of his accomplishments, Tim said he is most proud of his family: his wife of 33 years, three children, and three grandchildren. He has written a book about the band’s experiences and his family called Not the Destination.
In it, he examines the music industry in Nashville and the twists and turns of the band’s career. Although the band ran out of opportunities in Nashville, the Wright Brothers have become a stable part of Indiana’s musical landscape. In recognition of the band’s contributions to the state, Gov. Mitch Daniels conferred upon them Indiana’s highest honor, naming them Sagamores of the Wabash.
Certainly Nashville’s loss has been Indiana’s gain - and now Farm World Expo’s.
This farm news was published in the July 19, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.